The Michigan Department of Transportation decided to make a day of it for families today, inviting everyone to come to the Interstate 96 (I-96) Family Fun Day and enjoy the expressway before it reopens for traffic.
People were invited to walk, run, bicycle, skateboard, and enjoy the section of I-96 between Stark Road and Newburgh for two hours this afternoon.
I joined the crowds. It was packed. Everyone wanted to get out on the expressway.
So many people crowded the four lanes of westbound I-96, you could barely move. Once you traveled 1/2 mile eastward from Newburgh Road, people were shoulder-to-shoulder. Anyone on a bicycle needed to walk their bikes.
And thankfully, given the congestion of bikes, children, and skateboards, I didn’t see any collisions.
Despite the gray clouds and intermittent rain, strangers chatted with each other about the expressway, the bridges, where they lived, and how much they enjoyed being able to walk about and bicycle on the expressway.
“Mom, this is a big crowded sidewalk, ” said one young boy as I bicycled next to him.
I saw young families bicycling together, older couples walking hand-in-hand, and teenage boys on skateboards skillfully weaving around everyone. The crowd seemed to be in a happy mood, smiling, joking, and taking pictures.
Off to the inside shoulder of the expressway, I noticed a young woman sitting. In front of her were wrapped sandwiches and cut-up celery and carrots in containers.
Handwritten on the paper notebook on the pavement next to her was a sign that said, “Free Food. Stop and say hi to me. My name is Evelyn.”
I introduced myself. “That’s so generous of you, Evelyn. What made you decide to bring lunch?” I asked.
She looked up at me, and smiled. “I planned to bring my lunch and eat it here. And then I figured, why not bring lunch for others? So, I did.”
We chatted for a while. I told her I had bicycled on I-96 years ago when it was first constructed, and before it opened. Then the rain began to come down in earnest. I bid farewell to Evelyn as I got back on my bicycle and left the crowded expressway.